Why the Most Impressive People Struggle in Love


I had a Memorial Day barbecue yesterday and got a chance to connect with some amazing friends. As the day wound down and the sangria pitcher drained, I started musing about dating and relationships, which is the kind of thing I do whether I’m sober or not.

It occurred to me that all of our friends are demographically similar: Attractive, fun, 30-40 years old. Writers. Directors. Marketers. Professors. Artists. MBAs. Just a solid bunch of folks.

And yet there was only one other couple at our party – everyone else was single.

So if the common denominator between my friends is that they’re single and impressive, is it possible that the reason that they’re single is BECAUSE they’re impressive?

When you have everything going for you, does it become that much harder to compromise on looks? Intelligence? Humor? Money?

So if the common denominator between my friends is that they’re single and impressive, is it possible that the reason that they’re single is BECAUSE they’re impressive?

Without psychoanalyzing any of my friends (since a. they didn’t ask me, and b. I’m not a shrink), I’d have to at least pose the question:

When you truly are an 8 in looks, a 9 in intelligence, a 7 in career, an 8 in humor… is it imperative to find someone as impressive as you are? Is anything less “settling”?

Believe me, I’m not one of those people who became an expert when he put a ring on his finger. After all, for most of my career, I was the single guy. Plus, it’s quite evident that married people aren’t necessarily smarter – they’re just more committed to one relationship.

But maybe it’s not just a coincidence that the cream of the crop is largely made up of “maximizers” as described in Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice”. These folks have so much self-worth that they feel that the grass is always greener. And if they have 90% of what they’re looking for in a mate, maybe they just won’t rest until they find 94%.

Alas, as Schwartz points out in his amazing book: maximizers are rarely happy. In fact, “satisficers” – the people who are content with “less” – tend to be happier people overall.

So, is it harder for the most impressive people to find love? Would they be wiser if they learned to compromise? Are they holding out for something that doesn’t exist?

What do you think?

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  1. 81
    Carl R

    yea I agree, I am pretty young 22 educated and pretty intelligent (member of Phi Beta Kappa) and this certainly applies to me!!! Im not exactly a 10 in looks only because I am short (5’6) which really hinders me. Women tell me in pretty handsome but I am short which is frustrating. The town where I am from is considered one of the least educated, most illiterate in the nation so finding the intellectual connection in people is damn near impossible. When I came back from college it was a shock, I was extremely lonely and still am but I really let my standards sink low. I dont care if you have a damn GED, thats good enough for me as long as you look good enough and can hold a somewhat decent conversation. Its sad but what are you gonna do?

  2. 82

    Re: #81
    “It’s sad but what are you gonna do?”

    Carl, have you considered moving to a larger metropolitan area? More women to choose from, particularly if you put yourself out there to meet them.

  3. 83

    To me sexual attraction is a priority, as it is hard for me to get easily attracted and stay that way.
    If I am attracted then I would risk efforts and time to keep the spark.
    I believe I am picky and that lmits my choices. It is a double edge sword to be impressive.

  4. 84

    I think the main problem with a lot of these “very impressive” people are the fact that they don’t try hard enough, myself included. If I believe I am a great catch, why do I have to put forth that much effort to date a guy, and a guy in a similar situation feels the exact same way. Therefore, it is very hard to pair up the “very impressive” bunch.

  5. 85

    @BTTW , a 5 my friend is doing pretty well :-).
    I’ve just happened upon this website by chance a couple of hours ago. But even if it isn’t solving my problems it’s a source of great amusement and delightful banter. It really has made my day.
    This is exactly the topic I was looking for when I typed in my query .
    I feel fairly sure that it IS settling . If you can’t be fulfilled , it’s settling .
    I’m quite isolated here in Australia. Population 22 million .
    Suitable suitors ? Currently zero.
    My intense frustration has led me to anxiety and consequently ill health. Although I only became willing to admit the physical was caused by stress after a miserable Christmas where it seemed as though my body was trying to shut itself down.
    The issue is , I look fit and healthy . Amazingly so . Not an unsightly curve to be seen but I feel like an old woman . I am 19 with essentially the perfect figure . Toned and ample everywhere I should be an nowhere I shouldn’t .
    I will admit my head isn’t bad either. Allowing room for personal preference I could confidently say physically I am 9.5 -10 . As for intellect , 8.5 -10 because I’ll be the first to admit I’ve said some amazingly dimwitted things on occasion and I can be socially inappropriate at times though others I am so perfectly charming and witty nobody would ever no how hard I struggle to be in harmony with others. I can be very funny . I can be a little tedious and intense when the mood strikes to be painfully observant .
    Since my career is by nature one of inconsistency , especially being exotic in a country where although the look is embraced , in advertising , it is not always viable to use an exotic minority model when reaching for a certain audience.
    Sometimes I am contracted by multi billion dollar corporations to star in their campaigns and some months there is no use for a model that doesn’t fit the general population image . So my career can go from a 6 to a 10 on the whim of the fashion and advertising “season”.
    I am always kind , but that is not enough really.
    It’s just not and I can’t pretend otherwise. I have a very extensive web of connections but I can’t seem to find a match.
    I’m lonely . And really , there aren’t that many people left in Sydney , Australia to meet.
    I don’t need a partner to be a ten in physical attractiveness but if you can’t converse and communicate in an effective and enjoyable way how can anybody be satisfied?
    98% of the population quite simply can’t keep up. And then I feel as though I’m the rotten one because they’re the majority and they don’t care to be reminded that some things are out of their mental grasp.
    What’s a girl to do?

  6. 86

    My personal experience, for what it’s worth: I had a “perfect 10” in my life for a while, so I know it’s possible. Quite annoyingly, he was married to someone else and in the end he chose to stay with her (I know, I know, they all do, fool me twice for hoping it would end differently). But see, through all the pain and wreckage I still know that I can get a 10’s attention – and boy was it intense during the initial wooing phase. So I will wait around for another chance, it’s not as if I can’t do it, I just had an unlucky test run and that was mainly my fault for picking the wrong situation.
    Of course, it’s not easy at all. I have horrible days. More precisely, I’m having horrible years. But I refuse to let a setback dictate my course of action for the rest of my life.

  7. 87

    * #86

    I’m not really sure how a married man who is cheating on his wife could be considered a “perfect 10.” Maybe he looks good on paper, but a married cheater as an eligible boyfriend anyway.

  8. 88
    Sparkling Emerald

    Really ?   A married “perfect 10”.   AFAIK, a cheater is a big fat zero !   Don’t care if he looks like George Clooney and has the intellect of Einstein, if he has the morals and trustworthiness of a sewer rat, then he’s a big fat zero.   And a man being married is more than “annoying” no matter how good looking he is.

  9. 89

    Worse than satisficers or maximizers are those who review their decisions after they have taken them.   There is a time to decide and then you get on with it.   Five fogs sit on a log in the middle of a lake in the forest.   An Osprey sits on a tree nearby.
    Three frogs decide to jump off.
    Five because deciding isn’t doing.

  10. 90

    @Paul 47.   Or as they say in Cornwall.   Kissing don’t count.   Cooking do.
    Speaking as someone who has a trophy girlfriend 8 now, 9 when younger who cooks like a witch.

  11. 91

    Many people were just Meant to find love that many others can’t, and i will never ever understand that at all. It is like God is punishing us for a Reason that we Never Ever Know.

  12. 92

    Jim 91 – No one is punishing us.  
    Sparkling Emerald – 88 – Love the answer.   Made me laugh.   Big fat zero, eh?
    Evan – This is a very thoughtful question.  
    The men that I have been really very attracted to have been, invariably, very very intellectual, some of them having extremely powerful positions, but with some serious dealbreakers (women-chasing, and other things which I could not accept, much to both of them’s disbelief – she said no to US?????)
    As women get older, yes, maybe the pool of men available does decrease.   That’s possible.   And our choices change as well.   Sometimes our attitudes too (as in, oh God, do I have to go through all this dating stuff AGAIN?)
    Our bodies are less juicy, and gravity takes a bit of a toll, as does possibly our energy levels (mine were very high as a youngster so I’m still very energetic!)
    Yes, if I find the man who is faithful, loyal, bright and relatively attractive (read = well groomed at least), and if he has at least good moral values, (including being single and available!) I would probably prefer to be in a LAT relationship, all things weighed up.

  13. 93
    Sparkling Emerald

    Jim @ 91, I understand how you feel, I have often felt that way, though I am not a believer in God, I have sometimes felt that the Universe is punishing me in the love department.
    But then I look at everything else I have,   stable finances (not stellar, but stable), excellent health, a son that I adore,   lot’s of friends, hobbies that I love to do.   No major tragedies in my life either.  
    I know people who have had their children murdered, a woman who’s hubby committed suicide and took others out with him, people who struggle day in and day out with chronic painful illnesses, people who were sexually abused growing up,   couples who WANTED children and struggled with infertility etc.   I look at how badly others are being “punished” and my little ol’ divorce & roller coaster dating experiences pale in comparison.
    I think EVERYONE struggles in some aspect of their life.   For some, it’s a struggle for love, but those “lucky in love” people are being “punished” with a different set of struggles.

    1. 93.1

      To Judy And Sparkling Emerald,   Unfortunately many of us that are having trouble finding love is much harder nowadays unlike years ago it was definitely so much easier.   Many of us men hate being single which i am sure many others will agree with me too especially when you get older and you have nobody to grow old with.   The times today are a lot different than it was back then which it came very easy for our family members since many of them are still together today as i speak.   I will admit that many of us men are the much weaker sex when it comes to being alone when many women can handle it a lot better than us which they’re the stronger sex since it really doesn’t affect them at all.   Online dating is very difficult too since so many of us have tried it already and still had no success.

  14. 94

    re.   Peter 90.   When a guy says that his girlfriend cooks like a witch, is that a good or bad thing?   I’m picturing meals consisting of eye of newt, toe of frog, etc.
    re * 86.   She had a “perfect 10” guy in her life… who was a cheating on his wife with her (for a short while).   She explains that she is now “waiting around” for another 10 because she was once able to garner attention from one, and that the early stages were “intense.”  
    WOW.   This comment hit home.    One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on this blog is, as Tom10 succinctly summarised elsewhere on this blog, “… I’m coming to the conclusion that “men will date down for sex/casual, whereas women would rather abstain” concept can be used to explain so many of the issues in modern dating.”     Comment 86 was a clear example of this, and also of why it is so often a trap for us women!
    Men are often willing to date, flirt and/or have sex below their league but these are not the women they want to keep as long-term, respected partners.   However, many of us women, having received attention from men above our league, imagine that this means we can have one as our boyfriend or husband.   “That male model lung surgeon trust fund philanthropist took me to dinner, twice.     No relationship developed from that but CLEARLY I have what it takes to attract other men of that caliber; I won’t settle for anything less!”   Meanwhile, the years pass, our “value” falls and we ignore the thoughtful, hard-working guys who actually want relationships with us.    
    Posts like 86 are one reason I appreciate Evan’s comment section.     Sometimes we can better recognise flaws in our own thinking/behaviour when we see them glaringly illustrated in others…

  15. 95

    I’m still perplexed by this concept of leagues.   I have come to the conclusion that someone who being highly educated, extremely good looking, wealthy or even highly intelligent, does not necessarily qualify them to be in a higher league.   I think it’s as Evan is always saying, character is more important.
    I went on a couple of dates with a guy who genuinely appeared to have all the trappings – he was gorgeous, a surfer (with a surfer’s body), successful and rich, and appeared to be very cultured and well-read.
    And I WAS very taken with him on the first date.   However, by the second date it became apparent that he was used to being the shining star and centre of attention and a certain amount of arrogance came through and I suddenly found him less attractive.
    I suppose all this is to say, I think it would be great if we could evolve past the point where we are so obsessed with superficial characteristics, and where we could find qualities with more substance attractive, and that *that* would be at least as important as looks in determining what league someone fell into.

  16. 96

    once you are focused on substance and character, leagues don’t come into it.
    I admit there is a certain cachet to being seen with someone v attractive but I fully realise it’s shallow!  

  17. 97

    What do I think?   I think Schopenhauer is right.   Romantic love doesn’t have anything to do with love.   It has to do with the survival of the species.   Mother-nature plays her little trick on us so that the species continues.  
    I don’t think that most people that are married are happy.   I don’t think that most people that are single are satisfied.   This dichotomy is evidence enough to me that love has nothing to do with happiness.  
    We want to be loved.   We need to be loved.   Biologically we’re primates so we need to have social interaction to keep from going crazy and dying.   But, we don’t need social interaction with hostile people.   If a person wants love then they should earn it.   We don’t love people for what they can do for us or to us.   We love them for who they are; their virtues.   It’s what they value.   It’s their value-system.   It’s their character.

  18. 98

    Love this topic!  

    My opinion is that these people with high self-worth, AND a sense of entitlement, do feel the grass is always greener. They do not compromise. They move on.   It was ingrained into their brain since birth, that they get what they want through their looks, money, and/or personality. And when they don’t get what they want they are not able to process this like a healthy person. Instead, they find someone who will. We also call these people plain old selfish. Because they are. Best to avoid them, because they are looking for a people pleaser, not someone who lives up to their standards(which isn’t possible).

  19. 99

    I don’t care one bit about 10% and 1% and he’s a 5 or he’s a 10. What’s with all the numbers? I just want someone to eat a sandwich with that doesn’t have to get his self esteem from putting me beneath him on some self constructed hierarchy. I’d date a troll if he was sweet, complimented me and didn’t stink. I”m not ruling out guys because they aren’t quite up to my standards, I rule them out because they poop during sex, they balk when I want to order two tacos instead of one or they live in a camper behind their best friends house because they want to spend all their money on booze. Jeesh, I wish I were ruling out a guy because he’s a 6 and not a 7, what a LUXURY! My feeling is that if the guy doesn’t make me want to jump off a cliff after a date, he’s a keeper, no matter his numbers, looks OR money.

    1. 99.1
      Mrs. Cat

      lol you are hilarious…well said love.

  20. 100

    No such thing as true love anymore these days which it was much easier years ago which our family members were very Blessed meeting each other too.   And thanks to them is the real reason why many of us men and women are here today, and it is just too bad that it never happened   to us that way.

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